I am a woman. I am a woman who likes board games. When playing games where you can take on roles, I like to be able to take on the role of a woman. I do not like when females in games are naked/nearly naked, damsels-in-distress, or mere sex objects to be ogled at. There’s more to being a woman than our body parts or what we can do with our body parts. Hence, I would never play Busen Memo or Tanto Cuore. Give me a game where my character has to use her wits, martial arts skills, or cunning to win. That’s what I want.
Today, I am going to share my Top 10 Games with Positive Female Representations (or Top 10 Games That Aren’t Busen Memo). These games depict women with their clothing on. They don’t put women in sexually suggestive poses. These games treat women as people with varied skills, abilities, and characteristics, just like the males. (Except that they have boobs. It just isn’t their defining feature.) Like the Bechdel test, these games feature at least two women, these women focus on something other than men, and they are named.
I have to admit, it was a bit of a challenge to get to ten. But the hardest part of my list wasn’t finding the games, but ranking them. There is little that separates these games in terms of quality gender representation. These games got it right and should be model for others.
I’m sure that there are games I may have missed. Believe it or not, I haven’t played every game out there. (Challenge accepted!) But if you have other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!
Top 10 Games with Positive Female Representations
Originally, this was ranked higher on the list, but then I realized that the base game for Imperial Assault only has two female characters! We have Jyn Odan, a human smuggler, and Diala Passil, a Twilek Jedi. Out of six rebel characters, two are female. But the women are only on the Rebellion’s side. I would have liked to have more options as well as see some female representation on the Imperial side. Star Wars, especially in recent years, has done a great job of created fully-developed female characters, both good and evil.
Although I only played this once at Gen Con 2014, Dead of Winter impressed me with their male-to-female ratios. It has 30 possible characters to choose from: young, old, famous, and not-famous. Women are just as good as men when it comes to fighting zombies and dying from zombie attacks.
Betrayal at House on the Hill also offers a variety of ages to choose from and adds a variety of backgrounds: Zoe or Missy, Madame Zostra or Vivan Lopez, Jenny LeClerc or Heather Granville. Male and female characters are both old and young, and traits are equitably distributed among them.
Antoine Bauza did his homework for 7 Wonders: Leaders and aced his World History AP exam! In selecting from the myriad of historical world leaders, Bauza made sure that women were well represented. Honestly, there were some I had never heard of: Amytis, Tomyris, Bilkis, Hypatia. And I got a 5 on my AP exam. Glad to see good representation of women in leadership roles.
Cthulhu doesn’t see gender. Or race. Or religion. He only sees delicious, meaty souls to devour. Although most of the characters are white, there’s a wide variety of women in all these Fantasy Flight Games: a doctor, a singer, a scientist, a nun, a socialite. They do it all while trying to keep the Elder Ones from rising and destroying the earth.
Although the women don’t have names in Pandemic, neither do the men! Gender does not matter when you are trying to keep deadly viruses from becoming epidemics. The women here are valued for their intelligence and career accomplishments.
Not one of my favorite games of all time, but I love how gender-neutral Police Precinct is. Women are found at all ranks: sergeant to captain. Women of color are included. Every character card has two sides: a male and female. It’s not hard to find a tough-as-nails female cop here and like 7 Wonders, women are leaders here.
Sentinels is one of my favorite games for many reasons, but one of primary reasons is because I can play an entirely female team. While battling bad guys on the app version, I usually recruit The Wraith, Unity, Young Legacy, Tachyon, Expatriette, and Nightmist. Oh wait. . that’s more characters than I am allowed to use! The problem with SoTM is that I can’t play every female character because there are so many. Although the art does display a bit of T-and-A, it’s in the same hyper-exaggerated style as used for the men. This is why I didn’t include Marvel: Legendary. There aren’t as many women and when they are included, they depict stereotypical hyper-sexualized female forms. Sentinels saves the day!
I admit, this is one of my all-time favorite games and TV shows, so I am biased. The gender-equality depicted in the TV show bleeds right over to the game. Women are front-line fighter pilots, the President, or the traditional officer’s wife. You can be Boomer, Starbuck, Roslin, Six, Cain, Ellen Tigh. Take your pick. Good or evil, you have both options in Battlestar Galactica.
Again, this is one of my all-time favorites. In the three adventure paths we’ve played, I’ve been a woman each time (Kyra the Cleric, Jirelle the Swashbuckler, and Seelah the Paladin). It’s not hard to find a female character option. Even better, I’ve been three different ethnicities. Pathfinder does a terrific job of promoting gender equality in its RPG and ACG. Women are good, evil, powerful, manipulative, weak, and ass-kicking!